The theme of the celebration this year, in which about 3,4000 migrants have died worldwide, is “Migration with Dignity.”
The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution in 2000 making the day that of global reflection on the plight of migrants.
So, the theme has provided a useful background to the discussions of this socio-economic and political issue. It is pertinent to note that regardless of the divergent perspectives on migration, the migrant as a human being is entitled to make the choice of migration within the ambit of the law. In this respect, his or her human dignity should be respected by all concerned.
It is, of course, hard to attribute human dignity to the conditions of some migrants who end up as unfortunate refugees in some dingy places.
Talking about human dignity, you may say that the refugees are even luckier than those who perish in rickety migrants boats in the Mediterranean.
At least, 1, 700 refugees have reportedly died in the attempt to cross the sea to Europe.
Despite warnings from international agencies that the route taken has become deadlier, desperate migrants still get on the boats to cross to Europe.
Two months ago, about 34 African migrants including two children drowned in the Mediterranean. That was after waiting in vain for 36 hours for rescue. Spanish rescue services reported the disaster to the Moroccan authorities. The news of the deeply humanitarian crisis is always laden with grim statistics. Yet more arrivals of migrants are reported at the location of the accident. According to the UNHCR, between January and July one death was recorded for every 18 arrivals. The sharp rise in the proportion of migrants dying has been attributed to the greater surveillance by the Libyan coastguards.
The pull to the Mediterranean comes from different directions. Wars, conflicts, economic adversities are the major ones.
In many respects, it is commendable that the UN recognises the right of the individual to make a choice of migrating to overcome adversity. The various declarations of the world body in this respect would ultimately serve to advance the course of human civilisation.
It is also remarkable that in a fitting coincidence, Olusegun Adeniyi’s important book, From Frying Pan to Fire: How African Migrants Risk Everything in their Futile Search for a Better Life in Europe, was publicly presented last month. In an efficient manner, Adeniyi humanises the tragic stories of the migrants. As the book admonishes especially young fellows taking the risky path in the “search for a better life,” attention is again drawn to the dignity of the human beings enmeshed in the migration crisis. The book brings the global crisis nearer home to us in Nigeria and indeed Africa in general with the enlightening anecdotes embodied in it. It is a book worth reading by policymakers and the general public on what the UN posits as the “great issue of our era,” but which is yet to be given sufficient attention in Nigeria. The government should conduct a more “muscular diplomacy,” (to borrow the favourite phrase of the late Foreign Minister Ojo Madueke), in dealing with migrant crisis as it affects Nigeria.
The government and opposition pay attention to the those called members of “the diaspora.” Those who unfortunately get drowned in the Mediterranean or killed in the desert might have ended up as members of this “diaspora” in Europe and America if they had reached their respective destinations. That is why policymakers should continue to focus more on the problem with the hope of finding humane solutions to it.
Doubtless, the crisis of migration has subjected globalisation to a severe test. The contradiction is too conspicuous to ignore. The logic of globalisation (or more appropriately global capitalism) is that capital should move freely because the world is said to be in a liberal order. Multinationals are growing more powerful than the states in the underdeveloped world all in the name of foreign investments. But the upsurge of anti-immigration forces in the countries of the north is increasingly restricting the movement of human beings.
Widening global inequality is one of the bitter fruits of the giant tree of globalisation. The poor countries of the world are being fed with this fruit. Emir of Kano Sanusi Lamido Sanusi eloquently makes the point at the public presentation of Adeniyi’s book in Abuja. The world has to come to terms with inequality, which is a major cause of desperate migrations. Although fewer persons might be making the journey to Europe through the Mediterranean this year, yet the problem has been there for some time.
On Sunday, April 19, 2015, more than 800 persons drowned in the seas when their boat capsized. On that tragic occasion, this reporter observed on this page as follows: “Pundits may have cultural, psychological and other explanations for these happenings. To be sure, these sad developments are only symptoms of a worsening socio-economic crisis.
The attacks and drowning have chillingly brought to the fore, once more, the emptiness of globalisation (or better put, the unjust spread of global capitalism). They also constitute a proof of the monumental failure of neo-liberal policies in Africa and even in the metropolitan centres of capitalism. Neo-liberalism (despite the rhetoric of its ideologues) has failed to deliver economic opportunities for the majority in Europe, South Africa or Nigeria. Indeed, a majority of humanity is excluded from whatever benefits it has generated. That is the coded message in the tragic waste of human lives being reported in the Mediterranean.
“Those ideologues who conveniently ignore the social injustice and inequality that their policies promote are simply fixated in their ways. For every socio-economic problem they have standard solutions in the shibboleths of privatisation, deregulation, liberalisation etc. The result has been jobless growth. The Nigerian economy has been rebased as the “largest” on the continent; yet millions of its young women and men of working age are not economic players. Some of them have to migrate to America, Europe, Asia, or South Africa in desperate search for economic opportunities…”
African countries including Nigeria, of course, have no control over the external factors determining the fate of the migrants. The identity politics in the countries of the north – the ultimate destinations of the migrants – is being mismanaged.
Migration has become an issue of contestation between the anti-immigration and pro-immigration forces in the West.
For instance, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel could muster the humanity to save lives of desperate migrants, American President Donald Trump is bent on stopping the caravan from the crisis-ridden Latin American countries even it means separating families.
While the ultimate resolution of the crisis of migration might be global, the solution to the desperation of young men and women electing to face risk of drowning in the Mediterranean or being killed by criminals in Libya should be urgently found here at home. Jobs should be created, gates of opportunities need to be opened and social protection has to be instituted. Unfortunately, these ingredients to the solution may not be found in the neo-liberal prescriptions on display in the agendas of the contending political forces in the land.